How Can We Honor Traitors? Print
Written by James Hicks   
Saturday, 19 December 2009 15:23

How can you honor people who were traitors to their country? Confederate soldiers cannot be traitors to the United States, because they were not U.S. citizens; to be a traitor, you have to be a citizen of the nation you betray, and Confederate soldiers were citizens of the Confederate States of America.


Besides not being true, the argument that Confederate soldiers were traitors to their nation is mistaken, because it relies upon a modern understanding of citizenship that was not accepted in the early 19th century.

 

Even before the war, citizens on both sides of the conflict did not see themselves primarily as citizens of the United States, but as Virginians or Pennsylvanians. For North Carolinians, their highest loyalty was not to the United States, but to the Old North State. This is why Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who was offered command of the United States Army in 1861, declined, saying he could not betray his native Virginia.

 

In short, Confederate soldiers were not traitors, because they did not rise in rebellion against the nation that governed them—or the nation of which they were a par.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 13:21